Wishing change for your community? Just code it! - UNDP has supported the first in Ukraine hackathon dedicated to three topics of the Open Government Partnership Initiative

20 Nov 2012


The very word hackathon may seem to sound off-beat to those who hear it for the first time. Yet, more and more often commercial companies, non-governmental organizations, and even state entities turn towards this format in order to quickly garner high-quality ideas for both social and revenue-driven projects. The term hackathon, coming from a ligature of two words, means literally a “haking marathon”. Regardless of the multiple negative connotations with the word “hacker” (usually a cyber-criminal), during the hackathons skills of coding and prototyping are used exclusively for the common good or for winning the prize to develop a commercial project.

Open Ideas 4UA differed from a classic hackathon format in that it amalgamated two heterogeneous audiences: civic activists and youth, who are concerned with the problems of countering corruption, access to public information, and participation of the community in processes of e-governance development, and – on the other hand – programmers and designers who are well versed in varied platforms and software products. In order to promote the Open Ideas contest, a separate website was created, which at the moment of the event launch had 6146 views and 3683 unique users (all in 30 days of the pre-launch campaign).

Applications for the participation in the contest were submitted by 148 participants from different regions of Ukraine and 61 contestant made it to the second stage of the competition. The spectrum of ideas which were proposed for entry to the contest was striking in both its creativity and depth of vision of the problems that require solutions. The most original ideas included increasing transparency of charitable foundations that exist within the majority of medical facilities of Ukraine, application for enhancing passenger experiences in the trains run by Ukrzaliznytsia, creation of web-platforms for access to public information, fight against bribes which are extorted for providing services at kindergartens, schools, maternity wards, etc.

In order to create for the participants who have arrived to Kyiv the atmosphere of creativity and free contest of ideas, on 9th November all of them were invited to listen to the presentations of renown experts in implementation of electronic projects, development of infographics, promotion of ideas through social media and application of crowdfunding strategies to ensure sustainability of ideas. An especially captivating presentation was delivered by Giulio Quaggiotto from the UNDP Bratislava Regional Center, who elaborated on expending online-ideas to become impactful instruments of development of social institutions, businesses, and leveraging change in the society. Video-greetings came from the TI-Ukraine President, Oleksiy Khmara, and UNDP Montenegro Anticorruption programme manager, Marija Novkovic. The evening resulted in finalization of the composition of 17 teams and preparations for an early-morning start.

In the morning of 10th November all teams were welcomed to the SkyPoint hall by the hosts and partners of the event – Ciklum software development company. At the very beginning, Giulio Quaggiotto reminded the contestants of the principles of successful prototyping, and offered them to develop or perfect an existing concept of a youth-driven awareness-raising campaign to counter corruption dedicated to the International Anti-Corruption Day of 9th December.

After such a potent “muscle-stretch”, a day filled with intensive programming, prototype development, development of various aspects of the to-be projects followed. Throughout the process of idea-development the competing teams were helped by specialists in development of web-solutions, lawyers, budgeting and marketing specialists and e-governance experts. Many of the volunteers and experts were attracted by the IREX Bibliomist project. In 10 hours with breaks to only have some coffee the participants received volumes of useful information, had time to debate, agree on cooperation and liaise, process a wealth of ideas and prepared a presentation for the jury for the next day.

“It was my first time at a hackathon so, to be honest, my expectations were not soaring up high. And wrong I was :) – mentions Yuliya Vorobkevych, IREX Bibliomist Library Innovation Coordinator in her blog – Due to wonderful organization, a well-selected venue (20th floor of a contemporary business-center… - we felt as it through our ideas were transparent and limitless :)) and, of course creative teams of participants – the event was extremely interesting, innovative, useful and informative”.

During the next day, 11th November, an international jury that comprised representatives of UNDP, Life :), Microsoft, IREX, AIESEC, as well as experts from the civil society, listened to the presentations and prototypes of the 16 teams. And no matter how hard it was to determine the winners, the jury made it!

And the winners were announced as follows:

  1. “POYIZDka” (TRAINride): a project aimed at securing customer rights and increasing the quality of passenger rides in trains of Ukraine (Oleksandr Bondarenko, Oleksandr Latyntsev);
  2. STUDACTION”: a project which envisages the creation of a student-driven portal aimed at increasing transparency at the higher educational establishments of the country through crowdsourcing of the information from current and prospective students, and provides a platform for such discussions (Sofia-Yuliya Sidorenko, Lenera Memetova, Keteryna Kaluzhenina, Yevheniya Kontseva, Ivan Lezhnyov);
  3. Bribe for my child”: a project which gathers messages from parents who were coerced into paying bribes for the services related to their children (education, healthcare, leisure) (Oksana Zagorodnya, yrylo and Oleh Zhyvotovsky).

The nomination for the best idea of a youth advocacy campaign – “AbsurdBribe”, which will be wider announced soon, was won by the “Chysta Ukrayina” team consisting of Volodymyr Lavruk, Roman Vyshnevsky and Dmytro Holiy, who plan to involve socially-responsible internet-shops of the country.

Apart from receiving mini-grants to implement their ideas, the winning teams received prizes from the partners – smartphones from Life :) mobile operator as well as Dell Inspiron laptops from Dell Ukraine.

Summing up the three-day marathon of programming and creation of electronic projects, the UNDP Ukraine Deputy Country-Director, Elena Panova, emphasized that “change of a society is a slow but absolutely crucial process. In order to alter attitudes, mentality and rules of the game which govern the society, years must pass. Yet, we believe in those, who changes the life of Ukraine every day: demanding transparency in provision of services, refusing to pay bribes, receiving access to open data, and using these opportunities for developing democracy. The Open Government Initiative is but an instrument. It is a framework which, without being filled with ideas and activities will remain just plans, reports and numbers. Making this initiative alive, filling it up with action is the task for each one of us”.